Sunday, 21 June 2015

Fucking Interns: Horrible Editors (episode 2)




DAY 5
12.30 hours.

My hands were wobbly as I stared at the takeout coffee in them. I really shouldn’t have been thinking about doing this. The action screamed working-class chav. But I couldn’t help it. The bile in my throat was rising and if I didn’t deal with this urge by getting this over with, I would hang or, worse, hate myself forever for missing this opportunity.

I was reminded of elderly Asian housekeepers with horrible bosses. And immediately thought of that scene in Horrible Bosses that was such a laugh. This really shouldn’t be something I should be thinking of, even contemplating. But then, if my boss wasn’t such an asshat in the first place, I wouldn’t be watching Horrible Bosses. Or later, downloading its sequel too.

I summoned a giant gob of sputum, ejected it into the coffee I was holding and shook the plastic cup just in case my spit was swirling on the top. No one had to know.
I walked into the Glitz building. There was no room for remorse as I took the elevator and moseyed towards the Editors’ offices.

“Your coffee is in!” I smiled my most beatific smile and planked the coffee on my boss’ desk.

Without looking up at me, he took the coffee and raised it to his lips.

See, that hadn’t been all too difficult.

DAY 2
9.30 hours
“I’m leaving for woooooorrrrk!”

Bang!

My mum kicked the door shut in my face. It really was hard being a housewife when your son was embarking on the career of his dreams. But if there was anyone to be pissed, it should be the housekeeper she'd been sneaking in whenever my dad left for work. I sighed and left the house.

Minutes later, I was at work, flumping into my cubicle, smiling at the other copy interns. There was Maggie who looked, again, overdressed in a green satin number with shoulder-pad sleeves and balanced on her head was a weirdly embroidered lace hat—the kind you thought should be reserved for when Kate and William wanted to renew their vows. She smiled. Perfect Intern Boy and Perfect Intern Girl who weren’t overdressed in any way just whispered excitedly to themselves and never bothered acknowledging my presence or returning my smile (—“Shut your face.”)

“So, I guess it’s the Perfect Interns versus the Weirdo Interns, again today?” I leaned into Maggie.

“They’ve been going at it since. See how ridiculous I look and a muscle in their faces didn’t even twitch upon my arrival.” Maggie replied good-humouredly. Ridiculous was putting it mildly. In all her getup finished off with a knee-length lace-up army boots, she was  what you would call 'a hot mess'. If Joan Rivers saw her, she'd jump back into her grave and play possum (—"I don't have life... but I have death. Bleurgh!")

“So, what’s up for today? Winfred arrived?” I switched on the Glitz supplied notebook on my cubicle. I really hoped I was being all cool about it. Like hey y'all I'm turning on my Macbook and my heart isn't pounding terrified of the assignment we took yesterday, our first day, which would justify if I am to remain at Glitz or pack up for somewhere else. I had made a mess of the assignment, really. But then again, I knew nothing about copy-editing, so what I did, I was confident about.

“He said he’d be with us shortly—Oh, and there he comes!”

I looked up from my notebook to see Winfred, our tall, lean, intimidating boss who was Head of Copy for Glitz magazine amble from the elevator into the Intern Hall. In the midst of other interns of other departments rushing about their daily business he stood out like a formidable warrior in a tribe. All high shoulders, rhythmic steps,  dead smile. And shoving an intern who mistakenly got in his way.

“Kobby, you are late.” He announced not sending a glance my way and went on speaking before I could reply. Woo! Relief! “So, I figure you all had no idea about copy-editing when Human Resource made the mistake of hiring you.”

Again, my shoulders relaxed as a feeling of relief washed over me. I really hadn’t been the only intern who’d sucked at the assignment. I would have been doing my victory dance on top of this cubicle, kicking off my shoes and screaming at the top of my lungs to some tune if my boss hadn't been here. OK, so I guess I’d wait for when he leaves. My limbs tingled anxiously at the prospect of breaking free and launching into what would be the world’s most disliked Youtube video for Boy Caught Break Dancing Away at Workplace. Sweet.

“Copy-editing is demanding. You work tirelessly to sort out the errors—visible to the human eye and invisible.” Winfred spoke as he waved his arms—bearing papers which I presumed were our assignments—around. “You have nightmares before that article goes into print. Always. Nightmares of making the ex-first-lady, Nana Konadu Rawlings, a pubic figure instead of a public one. Nightmares associated with calling the newly-wedded Funny-Face and his wife ‘horny dears’ on their wedding night—the animal kind not the endearing kind.” He stared at us darkly, briefly looking at me then turning to focus on Maggie, “Just so you know, there’s no plural form of deer—the animal. You let that slip in your assignment.” He showed Maggie her error he’d circled with bold red ink.

“I hadn’t realized—"

“No excuses, Maggie.” He cut her off and perched on her cubicle obstructing our view of her. “When I’m done with you. You all would be the perfect copy interns. You would know how to take out crap from a piece, how to reconnect the dots of a messy writing. You would be the best in the business.” He looked at us with another of his smiles that never quite reached his eyes. “Yes, all three of you.”

Oh God… did that mean… Maggie was out of the program? No, no, this can’t be. I might as well get committed to writing my own epitaph because I’d die enduring three months with Perfect Interns!

“Yes.” He looked over my shoulder to stare at Perfect Interns who were smiling in delight at the thought of one of us leaving. With one away, half the number of times they spent rolling their eyes would be channeled into something productive. And that was cause to be delighted, I guessed.

I tried looking over Winfred to make sure my sympathetic stare reached Maggie, but no matter which direction I moved, his slender waist seemed to obstruct in every angle.

“You three head to my office.” Winfred spoke, letting himself off Maggie’s desk. 

“Kobby, do not follow. You are off my programme.” He walked away.

For a split-second, I couldn’t believe my ears. I sat stunned, waiting for the other three to tell me I’d heard wrong. Surely, the noise around had played silly games with my hearing? But I turned and found the others watching me. My heart sunk.

All intentions of doing a victory-dance were forgotten. It was the moment of The Walk of Shame. And it didn't matter how many times Perfect Interns cheered (—"Go, Kobby! Go, Kobby!"—), I couldn't even nail it.

DAY 3
9.30 hours

I was in bed. Listening to my grandma jog about the house and only stopping to pant at my window (—"Who the fuck suggested exercise to keep me alive when I am fucking dying here?"). Listening to my parents in the other room have a ‘quickie’ (—Mum had insisted, “It’s to celebrate Kobby getting sacked.”). My die-hard, older, competitive brother, Isaac, walked into my room to mockingly check if I was alive (—“After a shock this huge, believe me, I would want to end it all too.”) for which I always gave him the stink eye to show, yes, I was alive and kicking anyone who stepped within an inch to check for a pulse.

It would really suck at home! I imagined what all my friends would do when I told them I had been kicked out of Glitz. They’d be sad on the phone. But off the line, they would be conferencing anyone they knew to announce a party. The We Now Have Better Jobs Than Kobby The Schmuck Party—woohoo!

My phone rang just about the time I was about to wail and wallow in self-pity. I palmed my bedside table for it. An unknown number. It better not be a friend telling me they’d heard the news and they were so, so, sowwy, poor thing, how was I coping?

“Are you still in bed?” I shot up to sitting position at the voice I knew all too well.

“I need you at the office, now!”
10. 30 hours.

Except Winfred hadn’t really needed me at the office. If I had known earlier, I wouldn’t have skipped all the way making the bum hanging around the Glitz building think I’d won the lottery and wanted to share (—"Have pity on the poor and spare me some thousands of cedis.")

“Two cappuccinos, one latte please!” I shouted over the chaos of the queue that was building up by the second. A scuffle occurred. I really knew not to mess with anyone who hadn’t had their morning coffee. But the shoving and the missed punch in my direction was worth the coffee I’d have stood hours for if I hadn’t fought my way through.

“You are late.” Winfred said derisively upon my arrival. He collected his latte.

“I’m sorry.” I said with my hugest smile. He shot me a withering gaze. I immediately scuttled away to give Perfect Interns sitting around his office desk their cappuccinos.

“How was the run?” Maggie whispered as I neared her.

Before I could answer, “Maggie, you sure you do not want any coffee?” Winfred wanted to know.

“No.” Maggie answered with an apologetic smile in my direction and a roll of her eyes.

Everyone around had a coffee in hand. Maggie hadn’t felt right asking me to do her run for her. I was really grateful she was not being a slave-driver as the Perfect Interns who hadn’t realized like them I did own a heart and might collapse at an attempt to race back in record time so as not to incur Winfred’s wrath for being late.

“So,” Winfred rounded his desk to sit in his puffy leather chair. “You three come behind me.” He wanted to show them something on his PC. “Kobby, leave.”

I did leave his office. But I stood in the doorway watching him teach the other interns how to spot an error in a piece. I really didn’t mind rushing around to get their stuff for them, no. As long as I remained in the programme, I really saw no reason to worry. I was grateful for the opportunity Winfred was offering me, to run the errands of the most fabulous interns in the world. Really, who could complain about that without the risk of sounding unappreciative?

“Kobby!” Like now as Perfect Intern Boy had spotted me at the door. “Would you mind getting my Smythson from my desk? Lots of great stuff here I want to jot down.”

“Coming right up!” I said in good cheer. I had found earlier, the rush of endorphins that flooded me anytime I seemed hyper-positive, was a sure therapy to avoid a perpetual break-down. I had even read somewhere tap-dancing made both a happy feet and a happy mind—so I was going to run my errands tap-dancing.

Before I could pick a tune and tap, tap, away

“Kobby, use the stairs.” Winfred ordered, levelling me with one of his cold gazes. “I want to see how efficient you’ve gotten at running our errands.”

“Right.” See, more time to polish my tap-dancing. My job was the best!

12.00 hours.

I was deeply invested in a book, Lucy Diamond’s Summer at the Shell Cottage which I had to review for my book blog. I was really enjoying it. I was in Paradise and nowhere around this Hellish place where every now and then I was being summoned to pick up something. The book was a right remedy to shove down the throaty scream that wanted to escape and reverberate three floors up anytime I thought of what Perfect Intern Boy and Girl were doing to me.

“Kobs.” My head shot up to see Maggie heading for my cubicle.

“Hey, how is the learning going?” I said with that same cheery voice that would hide the pain I was fighting to ignore.

“Um, nothing much. Just copy-editing stuff.” She said casually. Like she was trying not to make it too much of a big deal so as not to hurt my feelings by reminding me what I was missing being here and not at Winfred’s office. “I see you are reading.” It seemed I wasn’t the only one adopting the cheery voice. “Mmm. Summer. Nice title.”

“Summer at the Shell Cottage.” I couldn’t help but snap. “The title is, Summer at the Shell Cottage.” I repeated, resisting the urge to add, “Of course, you should know this? I can’t imagine a copy-editor who didn’t have basic reading skills.”

For a moment a long-stretch of awkward silence created a bridge between us. Only sounds of the other Interns of other departments could be heard. I pretended I was reading. But I was doing a bad job at it, using the book as a shield to hide how irritated I was.

Christ, why was this happening? Maggie had done nothing wrong. If there was anyone I should be pissed at it should be the fuckshit Perfect Interns. I should apologize now, I thought, Maggie was my only friend here, and I couldn’t lose that too. Anything could happen as I was rushing around doing the coffee runs, or the notebook runs, or the hairdresser appointment-confirming runs (Perfect Intern Girl). I could break my neck if I accidentally fell down the stairs, or get hit by a bus. And that would have been the end to the story of Maggie and I. I couldn’t let that happen.

I parted my lips to speak.

“You guys did so well.” Winfred lauded coming behind Perfect Interns who were approaching our cubicles. “I’m highly impressed. Kobby, would you mind getting me tofu at that Baobab place nearby?” It wasn’t nearby. Google Map agreed it was some miles away. “Anybody wants anything? Lunch is on me.”

Perfect Intern Boy and Perfect Intern Girl barked out their orders.

“Maggie, you don’t?” Winfred asked teasingly. By now, he’d realized how close Maggie and I were. She shook her head. “I’m not giving you a chance to go on a lunch run. Lots to learn. So you might as well tell Kobby to go get it for you.”
Maggie was stunned for seconds. It was obvious she was hungry from how her legs began twitching impatiently beneath her cubicle like she wanted to do a wee. “No, thank you.”

“Maggie, it’s fine.” I mouthed at her. She smiled instead. At that instant, I was warmed by the fact that the bridge that had been driving us apart minutes ago had collapsed into oblivion.

“Kobby, Our lunch wouldn’t get itself.”

DAY FOUR
10. 30 hours.
I really didn’t find any problems running errands. After all, it was part of our job description as interns. Except the others weren’t doing this. But I didn’t care.  They had other responsibilities. I’d just keep on being cheery, high-spirited, and smiley. Really, I had no reason not to be all of these things. Because I’d developed a strategy to make me ran errands faster.

I waited anxiously, tapping my feet with impatience along the sidewalk. Why the hell was this bum so slow? I’d sent her on the errand hours ago. And it was almost eleven and no one had had their morning coffee! I could imagine what foul mood they’d all be in. I didn’t want to do anything to piss Winfred off. Not when he was doing me this amazing favour.

“I am back!” The bum squealed, excitedly. Sometimes she forgot she was a fifty-year old woman with no job, no place to sleep at night, and no fresh breath. “God, the queue! I never really even guessed that many people took coffee in Ghana anyway.”
I glared at her, quickly paid for her services and made an attempt to rush into the building before she held my arm. “What else?”

“You didn’t even say thank you.”

“Whatever.” I run into the building ignoring her as she called me a—

“Slave-driver!”

Speaking of slave-drivers, here was a few I was staring at. And they were royally pissed as I walked in win with my brightest smile—to add insult to injury, announcing their “Cup of coffees are in!” I even did a twirl to show how efficient I'd gotten carrying around their coffees. At this rate, if they'd begged me to take a job at the pub down the street so drinks would always be on me, I would have said, "You bet!" But they didn't show any delight in my new waiting skills.

“There, you three.” Winfred waved me out of his office pointing something on his computer screen. “You see that error? An invisible one sitting right in these perfect set of words—"

“Kobby, why are you still here?” Perfect Intern Girl with her stout body I could whack through the glass windows asked sternly to disrupt Winfred.

“I was on my way out. Sorry.” I added and sped off before I dissolved completely under Winfred’s withering stare.
11.30 hours.
I was over at the Intern Hall reading when a scream disrupted my focus.

“You never get things right!” Someone was yelling at a girl who was cowering behind her cubicle. “I said a skinny vanilla latte! And now you got me what? What the fuck did I just spew on the African War-Wear shoot?! Are you the dumbest of the dumb?Why did Human Resource hire you? TO TORMENT ME?!”

I realized this woman was a superior yelling at her intern who was up rushing to correct her mistake. I stared over sympathetically as did most of the other interns in the hall. But no one could relate to her as much as I... and definitely not her fellow department interns who were giggling into their palms at the scene. It was a shitty thing being an Errand Intern, but what could we do about it? Like me, the girl seemed to be handling it all with a huge smile, probably to numb the pain as she spoke to her superior radiating such faux warmth.

“So, what’s up?” Maggie was, as usual, the first to arrive from Winfred’s office.

“Nothing much,” I said as I placed the book I was holding down. “You caught me reading on the job, again. Ha-ha. How’s the learning? Did you learn anything exciting?”

“Nothing much.” She answered dismissively. “Just basic stuff that I really already knew. Never mind. Has the book gotten to the suspenseful bit yet?”

I inhaled deeply and went on talking about the book as though I was happy to share the main character walked in on her husband cheating, and did Maggie know the main character’s daughter was an alcoholic (—“Noooo, I didn’t knoooow.”), to top things off the main character could use a chainsaw (—“Woooow, brilliant!”).

I really was beginning to get pissed at Maggie. Why was she always protecting me from stuff that would just hurt me a tad bit? She’d been doing this all through the week as we finished off our days at the pub down the street. She would always tell me to never mind anytime I asked of what Winfred taught, or she’d make a snide comment about what a son of a bitch Winfred was. I really did mind, I wanted to yell at her one of these days, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have asked!

DAY FIVE.
9.00 hours.
“You know, there should be some kind of promo.” I tried to talk the bum into doing the coffee-run for me.

“No, no. No promo.” She said rigidly over the sound of a bus that drove past. “You pay the money, I run the errand. There’s no make sixteen payments get one errand for free. No, not at all.”

I gave up pleading and headed for the coffee-run as I didn’t have any money on me. I really was knackered and it was only morning. It was Friday and I’d been running around all week making errands for these people who were being too ungrateful. I’d had enough, really. And I was hoping I didn’t yell at the Perfect Interns to go get their coffees themselves.

All through the night I’d been watching Horrible Bosses, a movie Isaac had so conveniently recommended after reading my tweet about my boss being such a slave-driver, so annoying, and fucking unbearable.(I couldn’t vent to my boss these praise-worthy qualities, no. But I just could  let it all out on Social Media. Do not blame me with Facebook always beguiling me with questions about what’s on my mind!). If anything, Horrible Bosses taught me there were other bosses in the world treating their subordinates to a lot of crap than making them do coffee-runs. So I had to gulp down my protests with some aspirin for my throbbing head and do as I was told or yelled at or mimed at.

I rushed to the coffee-vendor who was having a hard time trying to fight off the numerous people shoving money at his face up in his van.

“Hey, you are from Glitz, aren’t you?” I spotted the girl who’d been so screamed at yesterday in the queue.

“Yes, doing the sodding the coffee-run for my team.” She responded with so much spite.

“Could I… um… stand by you in the queue?” I asked eyeing the long line of people standing behind her.

“Sure.”

Minutes later, we were running back to the office, with me yelling at her to speed up if she didn’t want to get on her boss’ bad side (—“Oh, if I were you, I wouldn’t worry. My boss just needs to get laid.”)

Then it all happened too fast. I rushed to cross a road, forgetting to make sure to check for any approaching cars. Sadly, an old lady across the street was as negligent as I. I pushed through her and sent her crushing onto the tarmac. All I could hear were the screams of passers-by, the screams of Errand Intern, and the screeching halt of a bus right near the old lady. I was so shaken I almost cried. (Thank God for waterproof briefs!) To think with everything I still had the coffee firmly held in my grip and an elderly citizen almost dying on my watch.

11.30 hours.
I was fuming as I moved around Winfred’s office to distribute the coffees. Maggie saw this, and was wise not to say anything. Winfred was too busy showing the others something on his PC to notice. Perfect Intern Boy grinned teasingly as I handed him his coffee. Perfect Intern Girl was the dumbest of the four. She ‘accidentally’ dropped her coffee sending it spilling onto the floor (—“Oops.”).

“I’ve had enough!” I yelled surprisingly to the hearing of everyone. “I’ve had enough of being everyone’s errand boy!”

Winfred sat still in his desk for seconds. He didn’t look up from his computer.  “Accidents happen, don’t they?” He eventually said to Perfect Intern Girl. “Take my coffee and walk out you three.” When the others had left, Maggie shooting me a look that advised not do anything crazy, he finally stared at me. For minutes we were silent. Him all cool and relaxed, me fuming at my corner.

“I just wish I knew where I went wrong with the assignment.” I finally confessed through uneven breathing. “Would you please tell me?”

“Kobby, don’t sit.” He said as I pulled one of the swivel chairs, then spoke in break-neck speed, “You want to know why you should be happy to be running our errands? Here you go. You have no experience. You are not copy-editing material.” The vaguest answer he could give but I knew better than to interrupt his tirade. “You have no ideas the basics of journalism. You realize you are an English major and all the others are offering journalism programs?” I’d realized. “Now get pissed, scream at the world how unfair it all is, but I’m not letting someone who hasn’t got the grips of journalism anywhere near articles meant for print. Now, my coffee’s gone. Go get me another.”

I could have said no. I could have walked out of his office that minute and never returned. But I returned with the coffee alright. I slammed it onto his desk. He wouldn’t know I’d spat in it. PAH! He wouldn’t know I’d cleared my throat of all its mucus and spat in it. PAH! And I felt so good.

“Oh, Maggie says she’s thirsty.” He stopped the coffee mid-journey to his lips.
“Sorry.” Maggie mouthed.

I didn’t make any move to object. Or scream, or make any scene to show Winfred ordered the coffee so he should bloody well drink it and not share! I just stood impassive, waiting for Maggie to flinch as she downed it all in one gulp, but she didn’t.

“So Kobby, please get me another coffee.” Winfred looked over his shoulder to the Perfect Interns asking if they wanted anything. “No food people, I’m not giving you a break. Coffee for them all.” He turned to me.

I smiled and walked out. I would never make the mistake of ever spitting in their coffee. I’d make someone else do it. Someone who hadn’t brushed their teeth since the invention of tooth-brushes, perhaps.

“You want me to spit in it?” The bum asked surprisingly as I shoved all three coffees in her face. “No, I wouldn’t.”
15.45 hours.
The McDonalds of Accra had its silence shattered by our loud, shrilly laughter.
Every time, I was down and felt in need of something to comfort me. I went in for junk. Junk food made me feel it was all right with the world. I needn’t worry as long as I had loads of greasy fries and chicken wings stuffed into my system.

Minutes ago, I had been sitting at the pub down the street listening to Maggie listen to me as I went on about the main character of a new novel I was reading. I was badly fighting the urge to scream as I told her the main character was shagging a star (—“You don’t say!”), and did she know this star loves to open champagne between her thighs so he was definitely a pop-star (—“No doubt about it.”), and did she also know this girl hadn’t had sex before so this pop-star was popping her cherry too (—“OMG! What an amazing twist! Kobby, could I take my turn at it after you?”). Until I didn’t want to fight the urge to scream at her anymore, “No, you fucking can’t read this book!”. I walked out. I was tired of her treating me like some delicate flower that might wilt hearing all of the new things Winfred was teaching them. I was tired of her telling me to never mind as I ranted about how much I hated waiting around to be sent on an errand. She couldn’t relate to me. We were worlds apart.

So you must imagine my relief as I walked into Papaye to see the other Errand Intern who’d introduced me to three other Errand Interns (two boys and another girl) from other departments seated at a table and laughing their arses off taking turns slagging their bosses.

“I cannot believe you had to pay Bummy across the street to spit into their coffees.” Taylor—I’d found out was Errand Intern’s name—screamed with laughter.

“The surprising thing was, none of them realized,” I said out loud waving a roasted chicken in my face. “My boss complimented me on how great the coffee tasted though.” All five of us barked with laughter. “I really do hate my job.” I finished sadly.

“We all do too!” Taylor raced to cheer me up. “But I cannot imagine staying at home though. I’d die with my kid brother asking he’d heard Tonga was a country and Big sis, was that true?” We all threw back our heads in laughter. “No, hon, I’d said, you know in this country tonga is a sexist term for vagina so I really wouldn’t know on the globe lies a huger vagina.” More guffawing. "'But then, it's really a sexist world so it might not be all too false.'"

She was right though, I thought as we all cried mirthlessly, our jobs sucked but we’d rather prefer them to staying at home. After all, we were interns, and in this country, that was just a nice word for someone who was bossed around to do shit. So we might as well just be thrilled with the little victories against our evil bosses.

An image of Winfred raising the coffee to me saying, “Mm, loving it!” came to me. I barked with laughter around the same time another Errand Intern said something funny about her boss’ little penis—Shoot! I really should have been paying attention.

“To us,” Taylor raised her organic orange juice for a toast, “the Butt Interns!”

We all hooted with laughter as we chinked our glasses. Now there were a bunch of people I could relate to. And at that moment, all thoughts about my very own Horrible Boss were pushed away. It was calming knowing I wasn’t the only one contemplating shooting my boss.

But for the time being, spitting in their coffees was improvisation enough.


Author's Note: Thanks for reading my blog. Please share with #FuckingInterns on twitter if you loved it. Till next Sunday, bye.

READ NEXT EPISODE: EBONY AMBITION (episode 3)

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